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Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told a European Parliament subcommittee Thursday he expects EU member states to “visibly increase their military presence” in the Indo-Pacific region, where China is raising its clout.

In an online speech to the Parliament’s Subcommittee on Security and Defence, Kishi said, “We strongly hope that a strong message will be included (in an EU strategy) to secure the EU and its member states’ unwavering commitment to the Indo-Pacific region.”

The remarks by Kishi, the first Japanese defense minister to speak at the Parliament, suggest that Tokyo wishes to have its view reflected in the European Union’s detailed strategy on the Indo-Pacific, which the bloc plans to draw up by September, according to the Defense Ministry.

In April, the EU adopted a document on the planned strategy, in which the 27-member bloc pledged to play a more active role in promoting democracy, human rights, the rule of law and respect for international law in the Indo-Pacific region.

In the speech, Kishi noted Japan has opposed China’s unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force in the East and South China seas, where Beijing is engaged in territorial disputes with its neighbors, including Japan.

The defense minister also said the safety of the South China Sea is vital to European countries because a third of world trade and some 40% of European countries’ external trade passes through the key waterway.

Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi addresses a European Parliament subcommittee via video on Thursday. | DEFENSE MINISTRY / VIA KYODO
Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi addresses a European Parliament subcommittee via video on Thursday. | DEFENSE MINISTRY / VIA KYODO

Kishi criticized a Chinese law implemented in February that allows China’s coast guard to use weapons against foreign ships Beijing sees as illegally entering its waters, saying heightened tensions in the East and South China seas because of the law are “unacceptable.”

As China increases its military pressure on Taiwan, Kishi said Japan expects a “peaceful resolution of cross-strait issues” through dialogue. China regards the democratic island as a renegade province to be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.

Answering questions regarding China and Russia, Kishi said it is crucial that Japan, the United States and the bloc “work together to monitor developments” and deal with any concerns in a coordinated manner, expressing hope to promote joint military training with EU members.

Among EU members, France, Germany and the Netherlands have already adopted their own Indo-Pacific policies. Outside the EU, Britain also said in its March defense and foreign policy review that it will be “deeply engaged” in the region.

British aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth and its strike group, as well as a frigate from the Netherlands, last month embarked on a seven-month voyage to the Indo-Pacific region. Germany has also said it plans to send a frigate to the area.

The Self Defense Forces held a large-scale joint exercise with the United States, France and Australia last month. It was the first exercise involving French troops on Japanese soil.

Japan is seeking to deepen security ties with like-minded countries that share democratic values, in addition to its alliance with the U.S.

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